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19th December 2017

Fluorspar

Flurospar

What is Fluorspar and Where Do I Use It?

  • Fluorspar is the commercial name for the naturally occurring mineral fluorite, composed of calcium and fluorine (CaF2).
  • Fluorspar is the predominant commercial source for the chemical element fluorine.
  • Fluorine is a non-metallic element and the lightest of the halogens and therefore largely irreplaceable in its use.
  • There are two principal commercial grades of fluorspar: Metallurgical grade (60-96% CaF2) and acid grade (+97% CaF2).
  • Metallurgical grade fluorspar accounts for approximately 35-40% of total fluorspar production with the principal applications being:
    • Steel production – used as a flux to lower the melting temperature and increase the chemical reactivity to help the absorption and removal of sulphur, phosphorus, carbon and other impurities in the slag
    • Cement – used as a flux to speed up the calcination process and enables the kiln to operate at lower temperatures
  • Acid grade fluorspar accounts for approximately 60-65% of total fluorspar production with the principal applications being:
    • Aluminium production – used to produce aluminium fluoride (ALF3) which acts as a flux to lower the bath temperature in the manufacture of aluminium
    • Manufacture of hydrofluoric acid (HF) – the primary source of all fluorochemicals (the single largest consumer of fluorspar), a wide range of applications include:
      • Fluorocarbons e.g. refrigerant gases, propellants, etc
      • Electrical and electronic appliances
      • Lithium batteries
      • Pharmaceuticals, polymers and agrochemicals
      • Petrochemical catalysts

Where is Fluorspar Produced and Consumed?

  • World production of fluorspar: 5.7Mt – 6.0Mt per year
  • The major producing regions are:
    • China (>50% of the world’s production)
    • Mexico
    • Mongolia/CIS
    • South Africa
  • The major consuming regions are:
    • China
    • North America
    • Europe
    • Mexico
    • Russia

How much does it cost?

  • Since the global financial crisis in 2009, there has been a contraction in acid-spar demand due to a combination of environmental legislation and demand - Fluorspar prices have followed such trend.
  • Acid grade fluorspar has historically commanded the highest price however the price gap between this and metallurgical grade fluorspar has reduced recently.
  • In 2017 prices for acid-spar have started to recover in China, export price for acid-spar (FOB China) – traditional benchmark price – is currently published as US$400-420/tonne.
  • The equivalent price delivered into Europe (CIF Rotterdam), published as US$300-340/tonne, has started to recover following the FOB China price recovery.

Specific Issues for Fluorspar

  • There are no net exporters of fluorspar in Europe and all EU Member States are reliant on imports.
  • China produces >50% of the world’s fluorspar.
  • Chinese fluorspar exports have continued to decline with acid-spar exports decreasing since 2011 – internal demand and production/export restrictions.
  • China may become a net importer in the future.
  • China listed fluorspar as a strategic mineral in 2017.
  • USA considers fluorspar as a Strategic Mineral.
  • North America and Europe are the largest acid-spar consumers outside China, all net importers – potential risk to long term security of supply.
  • No large scale commercial alternative.
  • Future demand for fluorspar will highly depend on the development and use of fluorocarbon substitutes.
  • Industry view is that demand for acid-spar will increase by 4-5% per year over the next 5 years and prices are forecast to increase in the medium to long-term.

Applications

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Reviewed by

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Tertiary Minerals PLC